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Notes & Quotes: The Odd, Odd-Man Rush

by Deborah Francisco / Pittsburgh Penguins
Thoughts, observations and comments from the Penguins’ 6-2 victory over the Atlanta Thrashers.

The Odd, Odd-Man-rush
It’s not every day a pair of defensemen get an odd-man rush. Halfway through the third period, Mark Eaton and Sergei Gonchar found themselves in such a situation. Eaton just came out of the penalty box when he joined Gonchar in the neutral zone. Gonchar fed a nice pass through the slot for Eaton to tap in for the point. Gonchar, a veteran blueliner, has never seen such an odd-man rush in all of his career.

“That has never happened in my life before,” Gonchar said. “Obviously, you are not going to see many of those but it’s kind of neat, especially for Mark. You’re not seeing him that many times leading the rush and he was there, and I am very happy that he was there and had a chance to score.”

As rare as Eaton and Gonchar’s two-on-one might be, interim head coach Dan Bylsma later explained that Eaton was technically in a forward's position when he joined the rush, but it was a delightful moment nonetheless.

“You don’t see it very often,” Bylsma said. “But let’s be clear, there were three defensemen on the ice at that time, so Eaton had just come out of the box and was technically in the forward's position. But we talked about snapping a picture of that because in all of my years of hockey I’ve never seen two defensemen leading the rush. Gonchar made a great play from forehand to backhand and split it over to Eaton and Eaton buried it.”

The Power-Play Makeover
Pittsburgh has been tweaking it’s power play in recent games in search of a formula that can consistently earn points. The Penguins search may be over as they scored three power-play goals against the Thrashers Tuesday night - and five man-advantage goals in the past two games.

“Obviously we are improving (the power play) and we have to be happy about it,” Gonchar said. “But at the same time, as we are moving forward, we are working hard. With the additions at the crease and with Evgeni (Malkin) playing as a forward, it’s a little bit different now with the guys getting comfortable to those new situations and new positions. I’m sure they are going to improve even more but I think at the same time it’s a unique effort and we have to make sure that we are playing well for the rest of the season at the power play.”

The Penguins have a plethora of options as far as scoring talent goes, but sometimes a successful power play just needs a guy who can play with some gumption – a guy like Chris Kunitz.

“You have a lot of highly skilled guys out there who can move the puck and make plays," Kunitz said. "If you get in front of the goalie, he sees pucks late and can’t get across in time. You want to either try to get in front of the goalie first, or get a stick on it if you can second, and definitely go back and pick up pucks and get them to teammates. That’s kind of what I’m out there for.”

If the House is Rockin'
The Mellon Arena crowd of 17,088 was very vocal in the Penguins' intense tilt with the Thrashers. Newcomer Chris Kunitz is becoming accustomed to the boisterous bunch.

“Every game I’ve been here they have been rocking the building,” Kunitz said. “You hear it at whistles or chanting guys names during the play, which I’m not really used to. The fans standing on their feet and cheering and stuff, it’s a great atmosphere and a great place to play.

We're Going Streaking
Pittsburghs’ victory over the Thrashers extends its record to 9-0-2 in its past 11 contests, a league best. Their victory also capped the Thrashers’ recent win streak at 6 games.

“Expectations are obviously above what you were experiencing or thinking coming into it,” Kunitz said, “But we’ve had two ties and the rest have been wins since I’ve been here, so it’s been a good situation so far.”
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